Posted in WWWhat?

Freecycling

On the weekend, I read an article about Freecycle. And I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, so I dug a little deeper. In case you hadn’t heard of it either, consider this your cheat sheet guide to this very cool global phenomenon…

Freecycle logo

According to their website, The Freecycle Network is made up of 5,119 groups with over 6.6 million members around the world. It’s a nonprofit organisation (the site groups are administered by volunteers), designed to help people reuse stuff that they don’t need by giving it to others and keeping it out of landfill. Kind of like swapping stuff with the neighbours in your village. If you actually still spoke to the neighbours in your village.

Their motto is ‘changing the world one gift at a time’, which sounds pretty great to me. And when you check out the groups in your local area, you can see the huge range of stuff that people are either giving or wanting – from shredded paper for Christmas hampers to specific books to chickens to horse poo. And a lot of people want old bathtubs for their gardens, it seems.

But like any community, there are some scammers around. One of the groups that I looked at warned about a FREE PUPPY SCAM!!! and another cautioned members to beware of people charging extortionate delivery charges for their bomby old televisions. So be careful – it’s a jungle out there. And if you need a machete to get through, I think I know of a Freecycler that can hook you up…

Anyways, I highly recommend that you have a look at the Freecycle site and check out groups in your local area. Just be sure to balance out your giving and your taking, lest you end up with a backyard full of old bathtubs and a bedroom full of shredded paper. And a starring role on that show Hoarders.

Posted in Food sparks

Treats from Ireland

I wrote last week that some friends from Ireland were visiting Australia for the Lions tour, spending this past week here in amazingly sunny Sydney. I haven’t yet processed my feelings about the match on Saturday night, where I was the lone little Wallabies supporter in a block of hundreds and hundreds of Lions fans, but I’ll try to write about it another day.

Anyways, my lovely friend Gavan brought me out a bag of treats from Ireland as an international gesture of goodwill. I’m not sure who started this crazy contest – I have been known to send over hideous Austrayan goodies (mostly to remove them from our shops) from time to time – but this bag o’ crap from Dublin’s finest tourist store has really raised the bar. In fact, it has inspired me to put together a Diddly Dee Oirish showbag for next year’s Easter Show in Sydney. It will go off like a leprechaun in a pot of gold, so it will.

Here are some pics of my gifts – do let me know if you would like to borrow anything…

The bag. Off to a very good start.
The bag. Off to a very good start.
Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don't mind.
Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don’t mind.
They really would work with any outfit.
They really would work with any outfit.
Roll on, 17 March...
Roll on, 17 March…
Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.
Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.
An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.
An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

I’ll stop there, even though I’ve only covered maybe half of the contents of the bag. But you get the idea. Although, I do need to add one more highlight – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Tayto, the Irish crisps that backpackers miss so much that they have their family post out boxes to them (well, they used to, until an entrepreneur started importing them to Australia and charging extortionate prices for a taste of home). Anyways, the flagship flavour is cheese & onion and they’re pretty much a national treasure. So, what else to do but release a limited edition treat – embed the chips into chocolate bars and sell them to the general public. I’ve tried it and it’s pretty much as horrible as you might imagine: some things were just not meant to be, Tayto.

Limited edition indeed.
Limited edition indeed.

Huge thanks to my friend Gavan for this bag of treats – I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a thoughtful/generous/funny/scary/sickening gift all in one bag. Now the stakes have been raised, I’m off to find some hideous Australiana to further advance global cultural understanding and tolerance. Or something like that.

Posted in Fashion Sparks

Faux Fashion

Another fab.com find today – this time, one for the fashionistas. Well, not quite. They’re clothes, sure, but they’re a little bit different and most certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Faux Real make ‘photorealistic apparel’. Uh huh. According to their website, Faux Real shirts are for people who ‘want to stand out from the everyday fashion crowd’. When a normal t-shirt just doesn’t cut it anymore, you might need to upgrade to a Faux Real ‘outfit’ t-shirt instead. I can’t really tell you any more, I need to show you some of the pics from the website for you to see for yourself…

Look out, little ladies. It's the Faux Real 70's vest for toddlers.
Look out, little ladies. It’s the Faux Real 70’s vest for toddlers.
From the bassinet to the boardroom, this Faux Real romper suit shows that your baby means business.
From the bassinet to the boardroom, this romper suit shows that your baby means business.
Surely every man needs a faux bacon suit. Surely.
Surely every man needs a faux bacon suit. Surely.
And here's the 'Beauty Queen' shirt for the ladies. BYO kooky glasses.
And here’s the ‘Beauty Queen’ shirt for the ladies. BYO kooky glasses.
But this one really baffles me - a faux camping shirt. Should be perfect for the Camino.
But this one really baffles me – a faux camping shirt. I’m getting one for the Camino.

You can check out these and other very quirky shirts at the Faux Real website here.

Posted in Sparky gifts

Special gift ideas for your Valentine

Now that the festive season is out of the way, it’s time to move on to the next exploitable holiday in the calendar – Valentine’s Day. Now let me just state for the record that, even though I don’t have a Valentine (waaa waaa), I still think that the idea of celebrating love and giving thoughtful trinkets is a fabulous thing. But, I fear that many poor saps get trapped by savvy marketers and become convinced that if you love someone, then this is the day you must step up and show them. Preferably on a grand scale and the more public the declaration of love, the better.

I do worry about those romantic fools, hoodwinked into spending too much money on questionable jewellery, giant I WUV U bears, scent-less roses that have magically tripled in price, dinner accompanied by the soothing sounds of the piano accordion. That sort of thing. Never fear though, I have scoured etsy and come up with some great gift ideas for your Valentine – gifts that won’t break the bank, cause offence or mis-spell love. You’re welcome.

Firstly, from Crafted Cookies, a pair of very cute sweet treats for Valentines. Or for police to give to criminals out on parole. Or for teachers to give the naughtiest kid in the class. Or for creepy Valentines-from-a-distance (I think the technical name is ‘peeping toms’) to give the object of their affection. It just works on so many levels.

I love you. So look out.
I love you. So look out.

I actually really like this next one, a cool necklace from A Charmed Impression. But I do have to question their chosen model in the promo pic, given its inclusion in the Valentine’s Day collection…(To be fair, Katie’s necklace does appear to feature an ‘S’ for Suri (I presume it’s not for Scientology, anyways) rather than a ‘T’ for Tom.)

Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson's Creek.
Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson’s Creek.

And another idea that I like, but question their photo choice for the Valentine’s Day collection, comes from Jubile Jewel. They are sterling silver initial earrings, which make a lovely romantic gift for your special someone. But could result in some mis-communication or a fight if your beloved happens to be called Fred Ulrich. Or Fanny Underwood.

Not quite the romantic sentiment you were after...
Maybe not quite the romantic sentiment you were after…

Another interesting gift for your sweetheart comes from Plantables & Paper. It’s a love letter kit, which apparently provides you with 50 small cards with a typed intro on each, to get your romantic sonnets flowing. Although this one in the picture does feel more like it’s leading you to put an expiry date on it. If that’s something that you want to convey, maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the time to do it. But when the time is right, if you use this card, it will definitely seem like a smoother delivery of a much nicer message. Of course, I take no responsibility if that presumption turns out to be false and you sustain an injury.

15 February 2013. At least.
15 February 2013. At least.

And I couldn’t resist sharing this personalised ceramic mug from 39 Cups. Perfect for a Valentine who’s a bit of a geek or a word-nerd. And we all know there’s nothing AT ALL wrong with that. It’s a word search, hand-painted onto a mug, with four words circled – your Valentine’s name, plus three words that describe them. Please note that each of the three descriptive words has to be 10 letters or less though, so it’s too bad if your man is really multi-faceted, or your lady is simply extraordinary. 

This mug appears to be for Ashley - a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.
This mug appears to be for Ashley – a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.

Well, that’s plenty of Valentine’s Day fodder for you right there, so I’ll stop now. But I do reserve the right to publish some more pre-Valentine’s Day posts if I discover other gifts for your consideration. Or if you find any true gems that I can share, please email me!

Posted in Home sparks, Sparky gifts

The Simple Things

Yesterday, I discovered a new magazine after looking at a photo on Instagram. It’s pretty amazing how that can happen, I reckon. Someone snaps something or mentions something, it catches your eye and when you investigate further, you discover something very cool that you would otherwise never have found. That’s why I like to read blogs and magazines and subscribe to a range of email newsletters – you never know when you’re going to come across something amazing in the virtual world that will make a nice addition to your life in the real world.

And so it was for me yesterday, when I found The Simple Things magazine. It’s a relatively new mag from the UK and its tag line is “Celebrating the things that matter most…” – sounds like a good idea to me. It’s pretty to look at (even the version for ipad) and amongst the beautiful photography, there’s cooking and design and craft and travel and all sorts of stuff. Even a “How to” guide to cutting your own hair. (Although that particular piece closes with the line, If it’s an absolute mess, reach for a vintage headscarf and remember hair grows half a millimetre a day. Caveat emptor.)

There are some interesting articles – although the seasons are out of whack, which you only really notice when you’re reading about preparing for a snowy Christmas in the UK and outside it’s a humid Sydney day with a thunder storm threatening. And they have recipes for cocktails, which makes any magazine a winner in my book. You can even download a free ‘The Simple Things’ soundtrack here.

Anyways, I don’t want to sound like their marketing team, but thought I’d share it in case my cup of tea is your cup of tea too. Or if this cup of tea might suit someone on your Christmas gift list. In a nice floral cup, with some chocolate biscuits on the side. Obviously. The Simple Things website is here if you want to have a look.